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Curnasco Micromineral Exchange 2017 in Bergamo

Last Updated: 12th Jun 2017

By Joel Dyer

Setting up tables at the Curnasco Micromineral Exchange 2017

A week ago, I attended the Curnasco (Treviolo) Micromineral Exchange event in the province of Bergamo, part of the Lombardy region in Northern Italy. I must say, my 6-day visit to Bergamo, Seregno, Selvino and other places have left me still dizzy from the many things I saw and experienced, but I'll try to gather together some sensible words on the Event. The micromineral happening was hosted by Gruppo Orobie Minerali (G.O.M.), whose members of which many are my dear friends from previous years.

Back to Bergamo: some background information

In the fall of 2013, I visited Bergamo & environs with my wife and son. As I hoped to perhaps visit some mineral collecting site during our week's visit, I "cast my fishing line" into the vast Sea of Mindat, to see if I could snap up some suitable mineralogical contact. Sure enough, it didn't take long for the president of the local G.O.M. club Marco Sturla and secretary Claudio Seghezzi to contact me and promise they would take care of us during our visit. Indeed, we were toured through Old Bergamo, taken to a closed mine in the hills of Dossena, I attended a meeting of the club, and got smitten by microminerals and microscopy then & there. Now, instead of zero, I have 5 microscopes, and plenty of "small stuff" though nothing compared to veteran micromineralists.
In 2014, I arranged a Finland Tour for six members of G.O.M. We visited various sites including Kaatiala, Haapaluoma and Viitaniemi quarries. Already then, I got a request to come and attend their next Micromineral exchange in Curnasco, but couldn't manage a trip until this year. Thanks to my sponsor and G.O.M. members for making the decision to travel a lot easier.

Visiting the Winery Museum at Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta

A two-day program

The Curnasco event was actually a 2-day package. On Saturday, we first visited the Ricci Curbastro farm estate winery in Capriola around 25km from Bergamo city. The winery is near the Lake of Iseo, which most certainly is worth visiting when visiting Bergamo. Ricci Curbastro is part of the Franciacorta Constortium and produces mainly classic style sparking wine, but also red wine and others. I also liked the complex 2011 red wine with its "very good nose" and rounded, plentiful taste – I'll return briefly to this matter at the end of this piccola storia.
The Family Estate Winery has a fine museum related to viticulture, with around 3000 objects on display in several buildings. The tour of the museum and the production facilities and the tasing event was quite memorable.

For lunch, we drove out in groups to an agritourism place, where there was an excellent opportunity for newcomers like myself to get to know many other micromineralists from around Europe and Canada (hi Mike!) that have already visited many micromineral events.
In Finland, I am not aware of any event, club or sub-section of a club that is or has been solely dedicated to microminerals – sadly. In a country of some 5 million people, probably 95% of members in rock clubs are interested in rocks, gemstones and lapidary art, not really minerals – especially crystals the size of "fly poop". Why can't we arrange a Micromineral Happening in Finland, too – I throw forth the challenge and am willing to take part in the arrangements. However, since the few micromineralists in Finland are far apart, arranging such a meeting may be tricky. Add to that the fact that the majority may be elderly and transporting sensitive microscopes across the country a bit scary, these are also points to consider. But if Exchange Events can be arranged in mainland Europe, why not here, then?
In the evening, us event participants from many countries met at the dinner table, at another very pleasant agritourism place in the countryside. From the antipasto to main entries and dolce, the food, wine and service left nothing to desired, in my humble opinion. The only problem for myself – for varous reasons – is that the Mediterranean custom of late, large dinners is not "my cup of tea", but hey, here one still is ticking away and alive. Stuffed like a turkey, next morning was the time to be picked up for transfer to the scambio di microminerali in Curnasco, Treviolo.

Author with Marco Ciriotti from AMI

Micromineral Madness in Curnasco

The main event for displaying, viewing and exchanging of minerals had tables set up for around 50 participating individuals, couples or organisations. The organisations of G.O.M, AMI (Associazione Micro-mineralogica Italiana) and University of Milano had representatives on site. For myself as an micromineral exchange event newby, it was a great pleasure to meet well-known experts such as Marco Ciriotti, Italo Campostrini, and many other extremely experienced micromineralsts, both amateur and professional.
Due to the fact that there were almost 50 tables for micromineral samples alone, you have to be very quick in order to have a look – with a loupe or one of the microscopes present – at some of every participant's samples. With many people having brought hundreds or more samples for exchange and viewing, I myself started to hear the "Error, System Overload!" siren in my brains. After a quiet start, soon I was stuck at this or that table, people pulling my sleeve to come over here and there, and exchange this and that. Poor Claudio had to send someone to pull me away from another impromptu discussion quicksand I got mired into, to come and finally have the beer I had wanted to share with him. Some day, I'll be fox-like and quick enough to be able to treat stubborn Claudio to a drink, and not always the other way around...

Some Italian literature from the Curnasco Micromineral Exchange 2017

From the AMI table, I bought the fabulous book on Volcano minerals recommended by Ciriotti and signed for me by Italo Campostrini. One soon has to start reading this very interesting and extremly well-made book, after recuperation from the dazzling Bergamo trip. Marco Cirotti kindly presented to me two issues of the AMI periodical Micro, with their beautiful cover pictures. To my great surprise, when reading the issues on the airplanes back to Finland, I actually understood about 80% of the Italian articles' texts. This must be due to good editing work and / or sensible language use of the periodical's article authors: a lot more than one could say of many modern geological textbooks.
Time for goup picture at Curnasco Micromineral Exchange 2017

Souvenirs, memories and analysis homework

This is not the place for a lengthy report on the remaining days spent in Lombardy, but some matters could or should be mentioned. After wrapping things up at Curnasco, I was rushed away via my B&B to a home in Seregno, outside Milano. There, a couple of days was spent with a GOM friend, and many micominerals, fabulous hand samples plus nature were enjoyed. There is a Mineral and Jewellery Shop nearby which also has a separate, very impressive Private Museum with many incredibly fine samples in it. Be forewarned, photography is not normally allowed, which I got a prompt but kind reminder of. So, no pictures here of this place, unfortunately. More information here:

River Scenery in Seregno area (Curnasco Micromineral Event trip)

After the very pleasant and informative sojourn in Seregno & environs, I got picked up again (yet again G.O.M. "limousine service"...) by and old friend and taken to his family home. Samples were viewed and given to me, and I had a very interesting discussion about Raman spectrosopy etc, with the family's son who has a PhD in chemistry.
Next day, it was time to be taken to the Magical Quartz Forest of Selvino up in the beautiful hills, at around 1000m above sea level. This was a treat for one being very interested in fluid inclusions in minerals and gemstones. I have never, ever walked in a forest were – literally – one can pick even perfect loose quartz crystals that water has exposed from the earth! And in the Autumn, I hear one can pick delicious mushrooms, another passion of this article's author. Originally, the quartz crystals were lodged in hydrothermal veins of grey-beige-brown dolomite. When I was scraping together some more double-terminated crystals, a sulfurous whiff reached the nose, and I thought maybe someone had eaten a bit too much last night. But not so: as soon as you scrape or hammer away at some darker dolomite pieces in Selvino, a strong odour of crude oil, with sometimes a fog of petrochemical gases quickly dispersing, is released. I tested this here again at home with a small piece of dolomite, ad immediately was transported back in memory to Selvino. What a very stange experience, indeed!
Magical Quartz Forest of Selvino

Selvino, Bergamo Province, Lombardy, Italy

My visit to Italy was finished with my Raman Spectroscopic lecture on the last evening at the club's regular meeting place in Curnasco. It was a pleasure to again exchange email addresses, and also to meet and shake hands with the Grand Old Man of mineral photomicrography Enrico Bonacina. Now, there's a lot of sample arrangement and contacting to do, plenty studying, plus some analyses for new and old friends. Oh, and a bottle of the red wine I mentioned above was broken in my suitcase by extremely rough handling by (Milano?) airport staff. Back in Helsinki, I noticed purplish liquid coming out of the suitcase and when opening it, I saw to my dismay that red wine has soaked to destruction some of the sample labels, and messed up some of my clothes. Miraculously, the bottle of Franciacorta sparkling wine was still intact, but of course it's made of thicker glass. If you bring back wine on flights, make sure it's triple-packed and wrapped in plastic.
Suitcase Accident to deal with after Micromineral Exchange Trip

A thanks to G.O.M. and recommendation to visit the Bergamo area.

Once again, the members of the Gruppo Orobie Minerali made a trip successful and enjoyable. The Curnasco event was very well organised as a 2-day package, and no wonder if many members are now exhausted after the efforts. I heartily recommend to Mindaters – especially those who have not been there yet – a visit the Bergamo area. It has a lot to offer in minerals, scenery, nature and gastronomy. Sadly, Ryanair – shame on you! - no longer offers direct trips from Finland to Bergamo, as the step-wise transportation to Milano with its heavy traffic etc is not nearly as pleasant and convenient.
A big, big thanks to my friends Claudio, Marco, Pietro, Stephano, Vittorio, their families and other GOM-members and new friends for making another Italian tour a fanstastic, memorable experience. Ci ritroveremo, speriamo in un futuro non troppo lontano. E benvenuto in Finlandia!

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